The Organic Way 187 31The Organic Way 187 31
feeding is necessary – too much of these nitrogen-richadditions is not recommended. Elsewhere, low fertilitysoil improvers such as leafmould or green waste compostare the best additions.Miraculously, a soil improved in this way will also havegood drainage and will be better able to withstand a rainyseason as well as a drought. Because the organic matterhelps to bind the aggregates in the soil (the sand, clay, andsilt) into larger lumps or ‘colloids’, the gaps between thecolloids are correspondingly larger, leading to improveddrainage. Any excess water then drains away easily sothe ground does not become waterlogged. But it is thisorganic matter that also acts as a sponge and soaks uplots of available water for slow release to your plants.
Retaining the water
Having improved your soil as much as possible on asmany of your beds as possible, including ornamental areas,vegetable beds, and around any fruit trees and soft fruit,you should turn your attention to retaining as much of that water as possible by slowing down evaporation fromthe soil surface. This means mulching.Lots of different materials are suitable; see the tablefor an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of eachtype. Some look better than others and some are more‘environmentally friendly’ choices. You must decide whatwill be right for your garden, but remember: any mulch isbetter than no mulch.Using minimum-dig techniques also helps reduce water
but cutting down on all soil cultivations such as hoeing.Try to do only what is necessary to keep the weedsdown – they’ll compete with your plants for the availablewater – as less disturbance of your soil means less of it isexposed to drying air currents.
Water-permeable landscaping fabricGreat for new beds, look goodwhen covered with gravel orornamental bark Difficult to apply to establishedbeds, non-renewable resourceCompost, well-rotted manure,leafmould, green waste compost,spent hopsFree or cheap resource, recycling,feeds and conditions soil as well asretaining moistureNeed renewing, may contain weedseedsNewspaper, cardboardFree resource, recycling, adds tobulky organic matter content of soilFunctional appearance, needweighing downFresh grass clippingsFree resource, recycling, adds tobulky organic matter content of soilCan burn delicate plants, use aroundfruit trees and woody shrubsComposted grass clippingsFree resource, recycling, adds tobulky organic matter content of soilStrawAvailable in large quantities, adds tobulky organic matter content of soilFunctional appearance, organic strawis very hard to sourceGravelLooks good, lasts foreverExpensive, may not be sustainablyquarried
Fit water butts to as much of your greenhouse as possible.Fit water-catching containers to as many of your buildings as you can.